Bluebells and Bank Holidays
Yesterday was a Bank Holiday in the UK. Bank Holidays are so called because they are days when banks legally have to be closed. Until a few years ago, almost everything else was closed too: but now most shops, museums and tourist places are open on Bank Holidays. All Bank Holidays are public holidays, but not all public holidays are Bank Holidays! In England, Scotland, and Wales we have fewer public holidays than almost any other European country: 8 in total. Most are connected to religious celebrations, but I bet that if you asked people in the street, they wouldn't be able to name them all, and they certainly wouldn't celebrate them! The unusual thing about our public holidays is, that except for Christmas, New Year and Good Friday, they are always on a Monday, so the date changes each year.
New Year's Day: 1st January
Good Friday: the Friday before Easter Sunday
Easter Monday: the day after Easter Sunday
May Day Holiday: the first Monday in May (not necessarily 1st May)
Spring Bank Holiday: the last Monday in May (this used to be Whit Monday, another religious festival)
Summer Bank Holiday: the last Monday in August
Christmas Day & Boxing Day: 25th & 26th December
Confused? Well here's a link to a really good website created by a school in Kent (that's in south east England). It explains public holidays (and all sorts of other things) much better than I can! Woodlands Junior School.
So what do people do on a public holiday? Well, the first thing to say is that everyone always jokes that the weather will be bad. This probably explains why so many people plan to stay at home and do DIY. If the weather turns out to be fine after all, people jump in to their cars and head for the coast or the countryside. Can you guess what happens then? They get stuck in a huge traffic jam for hours, the children get bored and everyone gets hot and bothered! Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and this morning I met a neighbour of mine who told me he had left London at lunchtime to drive the 60 miles to the seaside and arrived 5 hours later....just in time to turn round and drive home again! I felt very smug because I had a lovely day: in fact I had a lovely weekend! Let me tell you why. First of all, last week I celebrated my birthday (oh dear, James, another year older). The week before my oldest friend (I mean the friend I have known for the most amount of time - she's a little bit younger than me and I've known her since she was born) also had a birthday. She lives about 50 miles outside London with her husband and son (who is one of my Godchildren - I have 5!), but this weekend she left them to look after themselves, and came to stay with me so that we could celebrate our birthdays. On Saturday evening we went out with friends for a meal in a pub: it was a really nice place, but we had to wait an hour and a half to get a table! On Sunday afternoon we went to some local woods to see the wild bluebells. Here we are:
A wood full of bluebells is one of the most beautiful sights you can see. If you've never seen it, you'll just have to imagine a kind of blue-purple haze under the trees, stretching as far as you can see. The flowers only bloom for a couple of weeks in late April or early May. English bluebells are different from the Spanish bluebells and, a bit like the Exmoor pony, are under threat because the Spanish bluebell is invading! The individual flowers of the English bluebell don't look as if they are anything special
....but altogether they are simply beautiful (unfortunately, photos don't really do them justice)
My mother was born in Germany and came to England in the late 1940s. She always says that it was her first sight of bluebell woods that made her decide to stay here! She used to do a lot of hiking, but now she's older, she can't do as much, so yesterday I drove her around the English country lanes so that she could see the bluebells. A much better idea than sitting for 5 hours in a traffic jam, don't you think?
Finally, a few other bits and pieces: when I was out on Sunday, I came across some gorse (the plants the Exmoor ponies eat) and took a better photo so that you can see how prickly it is:
All the green bits around the yellow flowers are actually thorns, not leaves.
Ana Paula, I haven't forgotten about the books!
Naheed: It was Paul's idea to start the staff blog...but you'll notice he's only written one so far!
Cris: unfortunately the British don't often stop for tea, but when they do, it's usually sometime between 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock.
Kuldeep: thank you for the tea recipe: I'm going to try it!
Thank you for all your comments: I'm looking forward to hearing how your scones turned out and what your favourite cake recipes are. Filippo, as you like savoury more than sweet, would you like me to find the recipe for cheese scones?
DIY: Do-it-yourself - repairing and decorating your home yourself
to turn out: in this case, to end up
to head for: to go towards
b>hot and bothered: agitated or worried
smug: pleased with yourself
haze: a kind of mist
to do something or someone justice: to be fair to something or someone
under threat: to be threatened by something
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